Minnesota reporter Lou Raguse was sent to Albany, Minnesota, a town of roughly 2,500 people, to cover a protest/rally outside of Shady's Tavern. The bar's owner was going to open his doors in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's (D) stay-at-home order. When Raguse and his cameraman showed up donning masks, the crowd began to chant "take it off!"
Came across this clip in @FOX9 video from Monday's protest/rally outside Shady's Tavern in Albany, MN. This is @LouRaguse, a fellow Reporter & friend trying to cover the story. And getting *harassed* for wearing a mask. A judge will decide soon whether the bar can legally re-open pic.twitter.com/iHYXUvysow— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) May 22, 2020
Because the video went viral, Raguse decided to provide more context into what took place on the ground.
Hi Everyone. Those of you who know me know that I'm not a big "make myself the story" kind of guy. But considering the amount of response this video has received, I'd like to give you some more context in a thread here. At the end, I hope you'll watch the story we aired at 6pm. https://t.co/2snSGjBco6— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
My work partner Craig and I went to Albany MN (pop. 2500, 85 miles from Mpls) on Monday to cover the story of a local restaurant/bar owner who promised to open at noon in defiance of the state order for restaurants to serve take-out only.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
I had just spent much of the previous week reporting on businesses opening w/o permission. The issue boiled over after Minnesota's Largest Candy Store was allowed to reopen and was letting in 200 customers at a time. So this story was right up my alley.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
Craig and I expected a long line of people to be waiting outside Shady's Hometown Tavern. We would likely get that shot -- talk with a couple people in line -- and interview the owner. But when we arrived late morning, there had already been a change.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit and asked a judge to prevent Shady's from reopening, and that morning a judge indeed granted a temporary restraining order to keep the doors shut. The owner's lawyer advised him not to open at noon and instead fight in court.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
That fueled even more anger among the crowd - and it essentially turned into a rally in support of the bar owner and against MN's restrictions relating to the coronavirus. The crowd of 200-300, for a town the size of Albany on that small block, was huge.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
A group of 3-4 women started yelling at us about the masks we were wearing. I thought I could deescalate it by calmly talking to them - no camera or microphone - just level with each other as humans. I've become pretty good at that over the last 5 years in these tense situations.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
It worked for a minute or two, but then they began chanting "take it off" - as you see in the video - and sensing the possibility of the crowd riling up, potentially surrounding me, I shook my head and wheeled back to where Craig was filming.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
To the credit of other bystanders, a couple people immediately approached me and said something to the effect of "hey, you have every right to wear a mask and that's your choice."— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
Raguse also explained why he decided to keep the mask on.
Our company requires us to wear a mask in these settings. So, simple as that, I wasn't going to take it off.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
His bigger issue with the people wasn't about masks but the "general anti-press sentiment."
To me, the issue that bothered me more than the mask confrontation was the general anti-press sentiment we received. It is not something isolated to people on one side of the political aisle. I've experienced several confrontations like this over the last 5 yrs at various rallies— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
No matter what problems you have with the press, I will just respond by saying most of us want to go out there and cover an issue fairly and make sure people of different viewpoints are represented. And most of us would be willing to talk civilly if you have issues with coverage— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
The most encouraging thing to me that came out of my Albany experience happened the next day, when a man who had asked for my email address reached out - very angry - but with a lot of specific questions. Over the course of several emails, we ended with mutual respect.— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) May 23, 2020
This is a difficult time for all of us. We're still figuring out how to maneuver this pandemic. Each and every one of us. Some feel very strongly about wearing masks, others are indifferent and some see no point in wearing them. There are employers that require their employees to wear masks at all times as a precautionary measure. Stores, like Costco, are requiring employees and customers to wear masks.
If you see someone who decides to wear a mask in public, don't shame them. You don't know if they're required to wear it, have a medical condition or have someone vulnerable close to them.
Yes, members of the media can be lying and deceitful, but no one deserves to be heckled the way Lou Raguse was.